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Can Ontario step back from the edge of an opioid crisis?

  • November 7, 2016
  • by Will Davidson LLP
  • fentanyl, injury lawyer, liability, medical malpractice, medical product liability lawyers, medication, medication error, ontario, opioid, personal injury, personal injury law, Personal Injury Lawyer, prescription, prescription error, Toronto personal injury lawyer, Will Davidson LLP,

Fentanyl packages medical product liability lawyersNorth America is dealing with a growing opioid crisis. In a September opinion piece for the Toronto Star, Tara Gomes, a Principal Investigator of the Ontario Drug Policy Research Network, grimly illustrated the issue:

“Hundreds of codeine tablets stolen from the medicine cabinet of an elderly personal living alone in a rural community. Hydromorphone tablets being distributed at weddings and high school parties. Fentanyl patches being cut up and sold for a profit on the street. This is the reality of the opioid crisis in Canada today – these drugs are pervasive in every population, urban and rural, young and old, rich and poor.”

According to available statistics, Gomes is not exaggerating. The American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) calls drug overdose ‘the leading cause of accidental death in the US,’ and has stated that close to 19,000 Americans fatally overdosed on prescription pain relievers in 2014.

In Ontario, where 700 people fatally overdosed in 2015 alone, two people die of opioid overdoses each day, and one out of every eight young adult deaths can be linked to opioids. British Columbia recorded 238 opioid deaths in the first half of 2016, prompting the province’s chief health officer to declare a public health emergency. By any measure, opioid addiction in Canada and the United States is a serious and growing problem. If a member of your family has suffered as a result of prescribed medication, contact the medical product liability lawyers at Will Davidson LLP today for a no-obligation consultation.

Why is this happening?

Potent painkillers like Hydromorphone, codeine, and fentanyl are at the centre of the crisis. Canadian and American doctors prescribe these drugs to treat a range of ailments, from pain linked to dental care to post-operative discomfort. Indeed, patients in Canada and the US are prescribed more opioids per capita than anywhere else in the world.

In early November, the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario (CPSO) initiated investigations of 86 doctors ‘who prescribed extraordinarily high doses of opioids to their patients,’ the Globe and Mail reported.

David Juurlink, Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre’s head of clinical pharmacology and toxicology, told the Globe that he would “never” prescribe the dosages in question to non-cancer patients.

“To have multiple people on those sorts of doses,” Juurlink said, “I think is a very serious red flag for a doctor who needs re-education about the proper prescribing of opioids.”

Canada’s lack of national data on opioid prescriptions and overdoses makes it difficult to develop a comprehensive, coast-to-coast plan to fight the opioid crisis. As such, different jurisdictions have been left to fight the issue as they see fit.

What are we doing about it?

Ontario’s Liberal Government has taken relatively substantive steps to prevent a full-blown opioid addiction epidemic. On October 12, Health Minister Eric Hoskins ‘announced sweeping measures to tackle abuse of … pain-killing drugs,’ according to the Toronto Star, including $17-million per year in funding to chronic pain clinics and placing Dr. David Williams, chief medical officer of health, in the position of provincial overdose coordinator.

The province also announced that as of January 2017, it will cut off funding for all opioids exceeding the equivalent of 200 milligrams of morphine per day under its public drug plan. The decision will make it more difficult for doctors to prescribe large amounts of opioids, which some worry will hurt palliative care patients.

While individual victims of Canada’s growing opioid epidemic have little power to change the system, medical product liability lawyers like those at Will Davidson LLP can help initiate positive change.

How can we help?

Will Davidson LLP’s team of medical product liability lawyers has experience fighting for Canadians who have been injured by faulty or negligent medical products.

Unfortunately, opioids are not the only medications that have caused serious injuries and, in some cases, even death. Will Davidson’s experienced lawyers has developed lawsuits, including mass torts, against the responsible parties (which may be different in each case) who have failed to warn patients of the potential dangers of multiple prescribed medications. And while no cash settlement can fully compensate for the pain and suffering inflicted by a significant medical injury, malpractice and product liability lawsuits can result in new regulations and recommendations that ultimately make Canadians safer.

If you or a member of you family has suffered an injury as a result of medication prescribed to them, contact the medical product liability lawyers at Will Davidson LLP today. They can assess your claim and potentially help you access compensation for your injuries.

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